Mysterious group using radio spot to urge votes against Speaker Fox
A group calling itself Concerned Rhode Islanders Against Gordon Fox is using a radio commercial to urge voters not to support Fox in the November 6 election.
UPDATE: WPRO tells RIPR the ad was placed by an agency from Woodbridge, Connecticut. The contact for the agency, Harvey Adelberg, didn’t return a call seeking comment; he is a URI grad and formerly worked for WPRO.
Fox’s campaign spokesman, Bill Fischer, says the campaign was unable to find a filing for the group in a review of state campaign finance records. Fischer says he thinks the Concerned Citizens Against Gordon Fox organization is failing to meet requirements for campaign finance filings by political action committees. “We don’t know who’s behind it,” Fischer says.
UPDATE II: In a statement to RIPR shortly before 5 pm, Fischer offered stronger words about the commercial:
“The ad violates a number of state statutes and those responsible for the ad are likely to face criminal misdemeanor penalties and fines. We will certainly be reviewing any and all legal options to ensure the individuals responsible are held accountable for violating state campaign finance laws. The voters have a right to know who is behind these ads and how they are being funded. That’s why the Speaker supported the Transparency in Political Spending Act this year sponsored by Rep. Blazejewski.”
Fox was a cosponsor of the Transparency in Political Spending Act.
Fischer says the ad violates state law because, among other reasons, it doesn’t conclude with a “personal audio statement” by the entity CEO or equivalent identifying the entity paying for the advertisement. He says Fox’s campaign will consider filing a complaint with the Board of Elections.
A radio spot sponsored by the group ran earlier today on WPRO. It criticizes Fox’s leadership of the House, likening him to a fox in charge of the henhouse. The state’s losing investment in 38 Studios figures prominently in the commercial.
Jeff Britt, the campaign manager for Fox’s opponent, independent candidate Mark Binder, says he is not aware of the group that paid for the radio spot attacking Fox.
Fischer says Fox’s campaign “doesn’t think it passes the laugh test” to believe the Concerned Citizens group isn’t working with Binder’s campaign.
Fischer declined to discuss Fox’s campaign strategy for broadcast advertising. He says Binder should call on the Concerned Citizens group to identify its backers and funding sources. “It’s important to understand who’s supporting these types of efforts,” Fischer says, “and what their motives may or may not be.”
Asked for comment, Binder’s campaign spokesman, Peter Kerwin, says, “Anyone doing ads should play by the rules.”
Like Britt, Kerwin says there have been indications of polling in the District 4 race that apparently is not being done by either campaign.
This post has been updated and expanded.